NFL Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Bracket: Huge Showdown For Bengals, Broncos; Falcons Swooping In

NFL Playoff Picture, Scenarios, Bracket: Huge Showdown For Bengals, Broncos; Falcons Swooping In article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Courtland Sutton (left) and Joe Burrow (right).

  • The Broncos and Bengals clash in Week 15, with both fighting for a playoff spot
  • Check out the updated AFC and NFC brackets, plus what the first-round matchups would look like today

NFL Playoff Picture Update: Entering Week 15 

AFC: New England-Indianapolis is the best game on the docket, but no other game could have a bigger effect on the playoff race than Bengals-Broncos on Sunday.

Two franchises that were outscored by more than a touchdown per game last season enter the thick of December with winning records. Both are 7-6 and third in their respective divisions.

The winner of that one can potentially leap Cleveland, which is dealing with a plethora of COVID issues.

Cincinnati in particular owns the fourth-toughest strength of schedule in football entering the weekend, with its combined opponents’ winning percentage north of 60%.

NFC: The Falcons are quietly in position to nab a wild card spot, as early as this weekend.

An upset win over San Francisco and a New Orleans loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday Night Football would give first-year head coach Arthur Smith and the Falcons sole position of second place in the NFC South.

Perhaps Atlanta can pull it off – it has the third-easiest route in the NFC from here on out.

Updated NFL Playoff Brackets

AFC
1. Chiefs (10-4)
7. Bills (7-5)
2. Patriots (9-4)
6. Colts (7-6)
3. Titans (9-4)
5. Chargers (8-6)
4. Ravens (8-5)
Bubble: Browns (7-6), Broncos (7-6), Bengals (7-6), Steelers (6-6-1), Raiders (6-7), Dolphins (6-7)
NFC
1. Packers (10-3)
7. WFT (6-7)
2. Buccaneers (10-3)
6. 49ers (7-6)
3. Cardinals (10-3)
5. Rams (9-4)
4. Cowboys (9-4)
Bubble: Vikings (6-7), Eagles (6-7), Falcons (6-7), Saints (6-7)

NFL Playoff Picture Update: After Early Games

AFC: The forecast was once sunny for the Ravens, who sauntered into Week 14 with a first-place lead in the AFC North.

But after a loss to the Browns in which quarterback Lamar Jackson was carted off with an injury, things could get murky in Baltimore, especially with the plethora of six- and seven-win teams in the hunt.

The competition stiffens down the stretch, as the Ravens owned the second-toughest strength of schedule entering Sunday.

The Bengals can vault into the North’s top spot by day’s end. What a world.

NFC: You can probably stick a fork in the Panthers’ playoff hopes.

Carolina dropped to 5-8 with a divisional home loss to Atlanta, in what was also the Panthers’ last game of the season as favorites. They get the Buccaneers twice, the Bills and the Saints over the final month, and will be sizable underdogs in all four contests.

The Vikings, meanwhile, vault into the picture with Washington’s loss to the Cowboys.


NFL Playoff Picture

The majority of teams are still technically alive in the NFL playoff picture, but those in the hunt for a bid better enjoy it — the fat is about to be trimmed off the field in a hurry down the final five-week stretch.

The postseason picture is littered with 7-5 and 6-6 teams, most of whom have something to prove in Week 14.

Here’s how the brackets are currently shaping up in both the AFC and NFC.


Updated NFL Playoff Brackets

AFC
1. Patriots (9-4)
7. Bills (7-5)
2. Titans (9-4)
6. Bengals (7-5)
3. Chiefs (9-4)
5. Chargers (7-5)
4. Ravens (8-5)
Bubble: Browns (6-6), Broncos (6-6), Steelers (6-6-1)
NFC
1. Cardinals (10-2)
7. Vikings (6-7)
2. Packers (9-3)
6. 49ers (6-6)
3. Buccaneers (9-3)
5. Rams (8-4)
4. Cowboys (9-4)
Bubble: Eagles (6-7), WFT (6-7), Falcons (6-7), Saints (6-7)

NFL Playoff Scenarios: AFC

AFC East: Bill Belichick and the Patriots are inching closer to home-field advantage throughout the postseason.The Pats coast into their Week 14 bye atop the conference, fresh off a win against Buffalo to widen the division lead. Plus, while New England is enjoying the downtime this weekend, Buffalo travels to take on Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champions Sunday.The next loss for the Bills would already double last year’s total. And with the Bengals, Chargers, Broncos and Browns — four teams either 7-5 or 6-6 — all favored this weekend, Sunday feels like an extremely inopportune time for it.

AFC West: The West is likely the biggest threat to get more than two teams to the postseason, as all four clubs head into Sunday at .500 or better. The Broncos can get over the hump with a victory over the one-win Lions, while the Raiders — who have five outright wins this season — have been a thorn in the side of the Chiefs lately.

Bubble Teams: The Steelers, who lost in heart-breaking fashion on Thursday Night Football, get even more bad news: Their remaining strength of schedule is the toughest in the league, with their combined opponents’ winning percentage north of 62%.Conversely, the Broncos have the easiest (29-30-1, 49.2%).

Eliminated Teams: Texans

NFL Playoff Scenarios: NFC

NFC West: The Arizona Cardinals can be the first team to clinch a playoff spot this week. Their path is simple: Beat the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football and they’re in the playoffs for the first time since 2016.The Rams could also improve their playoff position with a win. They would move to one game back of the Cardinals in the NFC West and grow their lead in the wild-card race. They already have a two-game lead in the wild card heading into Week 14.The 49ers are also in the heat of the playoff hunt. They have an outside shot of winning the NFC West but are still very alive in the wild card. The Niners are currently tied with the Washington Football Team for the sixth wild-card spot and could improve their position with a win over the Bengals this week.

NFC East: Things can change quickly in the East these last few weeks as everybody plays each other at least once to close out the season. Cowboys vs. Football Team will be the matchup to watch this week. The Cowboys currently have a two-game lead over the Football Team, but they play each other twice in the next three weeks.The Football Team currently holds the second wild-card spot with plenty of teams chasing from behind. The Eagles have a bye week this week but will finish their season with four-straight divisional games. The only team not in the hunt in the division is the New York Giants.

NFC North: The Packers hold a three-game lead in the North, and the only team with a chance of catching them is the Vikings. The Vikings sit a half-game back of the wild card and helped their cause with a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night. The Bears are still alive but have a tough matchup this week on the road at Green Bay this week.

NFC South: The Buccaneers rule the South. The Bucs currently have a 9-3 record, and all three teams behind them in the division sit four games back with a 5-7 record. The Bucs have a tough matchup against the Bills this week, so that gap can get tighter as the Panthers and Falcons play each other and the Saints play the Jets. All three teams sit one game back of a wild-card spot at the moment.

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